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Dissecting ‘Black Panther’ with the guy who literally wrote the book on black superheroes

Chadwick Boseman stars in the 2018 superhero movie
Chadwick Boseman stars in the 2018 superhero movie "Black Panther."
Marvel Studios

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On Friday, one of the most anticipated films of the year is in theaters: "Black Panther."

Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, the film follows the newly crowned king of the fictional African country of Wakanda, which on the surface, appears to be a third world country, but in actuality is one of the most technologically advanced nations on earth.

Take Two wanted to know how authentic the movie is to the original series from the '60s, when it was the first mainstream comic to feature a Black title character.

So with the release of "Black Panther," we're bringing you the first installment of our ongoing series...Movies with Experts.

Here's how it works: A Martinez watches a movie that centers around a particular subject and an expert on that subject tags along. Afterwards, we discuss.

For "Black Panther," we brought along Adilifu Nama. He literally wrote the book on black superheroes. It's called "Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes."

Last week, A Martinez and Nama met in Burbank for an advanced screening of "Black Panther."

The Black Panther comic vs. "Black Panther" the movie

For a lot of people, this film is going to be their first exposure to the story of Black Panther. So how much of the original material will they be seeing in the film?

According to Nama, it stays "pretty true" to the source material.

Scene from
Scene from "Black Panther."

"In many ways, the film, I think was reaching for a type of Godfather-esque drama of betrayal and who one can trust and who has interests that can run counter to the family. There's also tension around tradition and how tradition can be counterproductive...

It was a highwire act in terms of the ideological and racial themes in the film."

The film builds on themes the comic established back in the '60s but also works to elevate present-day matters.

"I think what it elevates is the familial tensions, but I think most importantly, the film tries to establish his philosophical approach to being a superhero. There's a line in the film where his father says, 'It's very difficult for a good man to be king...'

It is, I think, the framework for how the film plays out in terms of the choices that people make and can you reconcile power with morality?"

Tensions in identity

In an effort not to give too much away, we'll try to be as vague as possible in this setup. In the film, someone from Wakanda is left behind in the United States. 

Through that, the film builds heavily on this theme that people from Africa feel disconnected or abandoned in some way when it comes to the United States. There's a role those two places play in history from each other.

"Right. You're on your own and in being on your own, the character takes a very destructive, pathological identity and expresses this in terms of wanton violence and when we can examine this against the backdrop of the violence in Chicago, in certain communities, some of this is real and some of this may be exaggerated.

But the notion that the African American experience is wrought with hyperviolence and destructive in terms of how it socializes young African American men, the film really does touch on some third rails in terms of black racial identity and the black experience."

Because the film touches heavily on this theme, Nama predicts there may be some debate around the depiction of the African American experience symbolized by Killmonger's character [played by Michael B. Jordan.] 

Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in
Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in "Black Panther."
Scene from "Black Panther"

"Given the African American tropes of basketball of a certain type of hip-hop swagger and a type of even thug persona that the character articulates against the noble, regal, thoughtful African prince/king T'Challa."

The women of Wakanda rule the film

The role of women in the film is powerful, from the all-female Dora Milaje, who guard the king, to the head technology officer for the whole country of Wakanda who is T'Challa's little sister.

"There was a lot of black girl magic in this film. I really appreciate it in terms of putting that at the foreground, and I think that might be one of the most interesting and progressive and dynamic parts of the film. 

The very interesting, funny, conflicted, black female characters that were just as dynamic as their male counterparts and I really think that hopefully that won't go unnoticed."

Scene from
Scene from "Black Panther."

Any upcoming movies you think we should go see with an expert? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us your suggestion.